The High Five Episode 4 – Five Incredible Black Comic Creators

On this week, I’m celebrating Black History Month by running down five of my all time favorite black comic creators. This was a delightful trip down memory lane, but also a great look at some of the greatest comic writers and artists around. I hope you enjoy it!

If you’re interested in the links I mentioned in the episode, here’s the CBR interview I did about Goldie Vance. If you want to find out more about McDuffie being let go from Justice League of America, you can read the initial Lying In The Gutters column here and then the news itself about him being ousted here. Finally, enjoy a few pics I snapped while putting this episode together including the fantastic Kyle Rayner sketch Darryl Banks did for me!

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Versus Aliens

green lantern versus aliensKyle Rayner was MY Green Lantern for the longest time. I came to the ongoing series when Hal Jordan went nuts and an LA dude got the most powerful weapon in the cosmos dropped in his palm in a back alley while wearing a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt. I was on board instantly and have loved that character ever since. So, when I was perusing the library’s Green Lantern offerings and saw they had a copy of the DC/Dark Horse Green Lanterns Versus Aliens crossover, it was the easiest of requests to make. Continue reading Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Versus Aliens

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Silver Surfer #54 (1991)

SILVER SURFER #54 (Marvel)
Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Ron Lim
While moving all our stuff from one storage unit to the other this week, I organized a bunch of the unread comics I’ve got and pulled out over a dozen Silver Surfer issues, thinking they might compliment all the Green Lantern comics I’ve been reading lately. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Since the issues were pretty spread out, I didn’t get much of an idea of the overarching story and also didn’t always care about the specifics of the issues. I’m getting to the point where I recognize the set-up for a specific kind of story and then just flip through to see if I’m right, which I tend to be. Things got better with the Ron Marz written issues, and, surprisingly enough, my favorite of the bunch was actually an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in.

Let’s all be honest, tie-ins have a tendency to suck because they’re very often foisted upon creative teams and feel like blatant cash grabs (like most of the Blackest Night tie-in issues). It takes a very special writer to take something like that and seamlessly combine the event with their ongoing story and Marz pulls that off beautifully in this issue, hooking you right from the beginning with a fight readers probably never thought they’d see. Rhino vs. Silver Surfer? Okay, I’ll bite.

As it turns out, the issue itself is a bit of a bait and switch. They get you in the door with the implied promise of a knock down drag out battle between two pretty tough though not nearly evenly matched opponents and turns it into a story about animal safety. But in a cool way. If you’re not familiar with Infinity Gauntlet, and even my memory’s a little rusty on the subject, there’s a part where Thanos kills half the universe for his lady Death. We’re on Earth after that as the heroes plan their attack. Not wanting to stand around and do nothing, the Surfer starts wandering around what looks like Central Park and comes across a tiger wandering around. After a little investigating, he finds that Rhino has been freeing the animals at the zoo so that they could spend the short time the universe still had free. It’s a pretty cool beat that shows some actual character for the bruiser. I’m not familiar with him outside of the 90s Spidey cartoon and some video games, but I got a pretty good feel for him in this appearance.

As you might expect, Rhino’s temper gets the best of him and he starts the fight with Silver Surfer. Like a drunk musclehead trying to fight a zen martial arts master, Silver handles him with kid gloves and the two finally stop after something happens to one of the freed animals. Realizing it might be better for the animals to get put back in their cages–for their own safety–the two work together and then part on pretty good terms. I really appreciate what Marz did by zooming in really far on some interesting character moments while this big giant threat to the entire universe was going on. You even get the fight promised on the cover, but that’s not what the comic is actually ABOUT. Actually, I’m not really sure what it’s about. Is there a message here about thinking things through and not being a hot head like Rhino? Is it that some people need imprisonment to keep them safe? I don’t really know, but I like that the comic made me think. I’ve also got to give credit to Ron Lim who has a great knack for drawing powerful looking and dynamic figures. Sure, the backgrounds could have been more detailed (there’s a lot of white in this book), but I like the look of the book.

So, if you’re digging through quarter boxes at your next comic con or have this issue deep in your collection somewhere, I recommend getting it and having some fun. Of the pile, this is the only issue of Silver Surfer I’ll be keeping, though I would be interested in reading more of Marz’s run on the book. Maybe they’ll get around to doing trades of that stuff soon.

Books Of Oa: Ion Vol. 1 & 2

ION THE TORCHBEARER (DC)
Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Greg Tocchini & Tom Grindberg
Collects Ion #1-6
After Rann-Thanagar War, Green Lantern Corps Recharge and Infinite Crisis, Kyle Rayner became even more powerful thanks to regaining some of the power he bestowed to the now-dead Jade (who gave it back when she died in space). Going by Ion once again, Kyle was left to decide what to do with himself and figure out his place in the universe. Launching a month after the line-wide One Year Later jump instituted in IC, the book opens with what looks like Kyle attacking some fellow Green Lanterns and then hanging out at an artists’ retreat on Earth. I remember being really confused by this story at first because, as was clearly intended, you’re not supposed to know whether Kyle’s really losing it Hal-style or if it’s someone else masquerading as him. For whatever reason, I didn’t even think of the latter and the former didn’t make a lot of sense, so I was definitely in the dark. Well after Kyle spends some more time with Mogo in a therapy session where he talks to many of his dead girlfriends (similar to what we saw in Recharge) he teams up with Hal to stop his mad doppelganger who turns out to be none other than insane foe Nero, a man who was messed with by the Weaponers of Qward and given a ring much like Sinestro’s during Judd Winick’s run on the book.

Like many of the other OYL books, we’re not really given a lot of information about what Kyle did during the missing year, but we do find some interesting bits out here and there. First off, the Guardians won’t allow anyone to help the seemingly mad Kyle, nor will they explain what’s happening to him which of course raises some eyebrows. As it turns out, Kyle now has direct access to the GL power battery as well as the Starheart which was the Guardians’ collection of magic and also fuels Alan Scott’s powers, so now he’s doubly powerful. The Guardians seem to think that Hal and Kyle are very similar in that they will both be the savior and bane of them, which is an interesting assessment. Kyle is also told that with the Ion power he can literally restart the GLC again on his own if it gets decimated like it did in the past.

Overall, I think this is a pretty important installment in the overall GLC mythos. It’s good to see Ron Marz writing the character he invented and brought to prominence while also throwing in some of Kyle’s villains that long-time fans remember like Nero. There’s even more in the next volume. We also get a solid idea of what Kyle’s role is to some extent when the Guardians tell him that he will be their agent. It’s also nice to see Hal and Kyle getting along so well and Kyle’s optimistic viewpoint is a refreshing one in comics. Much like me as a reader, he just wants to see what will be happening next. My only real beef with these issues is that the art isn’t so great. I’m not really familiar with Tocchini, but his art seems really inconsistent with some really great looking pages mixed in with some really sloppy looking ones. If you can get past that though, I’d recommend giving his book a read.

ION THE DYING FLAME (DC)
Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Greg Tocchini, Paco Diaz, Yvel Guichet & Fernando Pasarin
Collects Ion #7-12
I can’t, however, recommend the second volume of Ion, though, unless you’re a huge fan of Kyle Rayner like I am. And even then, this volume reeks of editorial interference, plans being changed mid-run and elements getting shoehorned in. Things start off interesting enough with the return of another Kyle villain, this time Effigy who was changed by the Controllers, but, much like Nero, has no idea why he’s attacking Kyle. There’s a mystery as to who has been messing with Kyle’ rogues but we don’t get an answer in this collection as to who’s doing what The early issues also bring Kyle’s old landlord and confidant Radu into the story which is nice to see. From there, Kyle heads to an alien world to help out in the wake of Nero’s destruction. The idea that Kyle needs to help fix things that someone else did dressed as him seems a little weird to me, but I guess it works. This story doesn’t really do much of anything and could have been tossed out. From there we find out Kyle’s mom is dying and no one knows what’s wrong with her. The Guardians call him away, but instead of immediately heeding their call he winds up running into The Atom and Flash from the Tangent universe. If you’re not familiar with Tangent, it was a series of one-shots DC published in an alternate universe in which the Cuban Missile Crisis actually happened with heroes and villains based in name only on existing DC characters. For some reason, DC decided it would be a good idea to bring them back into the consciousness at this time. As they don’t actually serve any purpose aside from sending Kyle into the Bleed where he meets Captain Atom dressed as Monarch none of which has any bearing on this series and only hints at Countdown which was a continuity mess that wound up ruining aspects of Sinestro Corps War and comics in general.

After all that useless nonsense, Kyle winds up teaming up with no longer dead girlfriend Donna Troy against yet another Kyle villain, this time Grayven, Darkseid’s bastard son. It’s a fun fight, but gets cut short when Kyle has to return to his dying mom who’s being looked at my the GLC’s resident doctor Soranik Natu. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done and Kyle’s mom passes away. There’s a really creepy moment where Kyle uses the Ion power to actually bring her back to life, but soon realizes the error of his ways and undoes that. That whole scene is handled really well, though it smacks a little of that Buffy episode where they wisher their mom back from the dead.

I’d say that if you find yourself in possession of this book, just ignore everything with a Monitor, Tangent character or anything that has to do with Countdown and mostly stick to the first and last two issues and then anything with other GLs or the Guardians. Everything else feels like filler. I probably should have read the second volume in more of a chronological order with the rest of the GL books I’m reading, but after really enjoying the first one, I wanted to find answers in the second. Unfortunately there just aren’t any. A few of the questions are answered in the Sinestro Corps War story, but as a story in and of itself, Ion winds up not really working, which is too bad. I’d like to see Marz get another chance to write Kyle and this time just let him run with the character and do his thing.

The Book of Oa: Sinestro Corps War

2008-09-19
2:22:10 am

Wow, I completely suck for not posting in so long, hopefully this long-ish post will make up for it. This one’s for you Farooq.

I recently reread the entire Sinestro Corps War saga in the three hardcovers that DC has put out (Vol. 1, 2 and Tales of the Sinestro Corps) and dammit all if this isn’t one of the best comic book stories of all time. Geoff Johns helmed this epic with the help of fellow GL writers Dave Gibbons, Pete Tomasi and Ron Marz while artists like Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason and others drew the heck out of it.

GREEN LANTERN: THE SINESTRO CORPS WAR VOL. ONE

Johns and Gibbons both seeded elements of this tale in both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, but this is where all that craziness goes on, starting with one of my favorite one shots of all time the Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War one-shot which shows the Sinestro Corps waging war on the Green Lantern home world of Oa. There’s even a super patient Yellow Lantern who hid in an asteroid field just so that he could bust out and snipe the crap out of some GLs. There’s a real sense of “how the heck are the going to get out of this?” But before all that, the GL that will always have a soft place in my heart, Kyle Rayner, gets sucked the Qward where he gets infected with Parallax, the embodiment of fear (oh yeah, whereas the GLs represent willpower, the YLs represent fear on the emotional spectrum).

But the craziness doesn’t stop there (and neither does the issue). As the Sinestros slaughter the GLs (who can’t kill anyone with their rings) we find out that Superboy Prime (yeah, I called him SuperBOY Prime and I’m not gonna stop) and Cyborg Superman are on Sinestro’s side. And, as readers of GL will remember, Cyborg’s actually in charge of the Manhunters, the Guardians’ first crack at a police force (though robotic instead of “human”). But that’s not the biggest kicker. That boot belongs to the fact that their guardian is actually the Anti-Monitor. Now, they don’t really get into an explanation as to how the heck AM is still alive after Crisis on Infinite Earths, but they do mention something like “When the universe redid itself, we found him.” Hey, it’s good enough for me.

Okay, that’s the end of the first issue. Personally, I think the set up for all of this, which was inspired by Alan Moore’s BRILLIANT “Darkest Night” story which you can find in one of my favorite trades of all time: DC Universe:The Stories of Alan Moore. Bringing back Cyborg as leader of the Manhunters and incorporating Superboy Prime (who was involved with Countdown, but seriously, who was reading that?) just made so much sense. I love when creators actually do something with older characters that have been forgotten that were important at one time (like Prime was prior to Infinite Crisis).

And Ethan Van Sciver’s can’t be ignored. Like with Green Lantern: Rebirth, Ethan just kills it. He also continues one of my favorite elements of Geoff and Ethan’s reboot: the different ways the the GLs use their rings. Kilowog and Guy are like forces of nature, Kyle’s very artistic and John Stewart, the engineer that he is, designs all of his constructs from all their parts. Additionally, you’ve got nine splash pages and spreads that blow my mind, especially the spread of the Yellow Lanterns on Qward. Just sick.

Okay, so it’s not all one issue. After fending off the SC’s first attack, the Guardians decide to destroy the Blackest Night chapter of the Book of Oa which carries the prophecy of how the Corps will fall, causing a rift between Ganthet and Sayd and the other Guardians. Ganthet and Sayd appear to Hal Jordan via his ring and tell him he needs to be the leader of the Corps again, Hal doesn’t know how the others will take that, but he doesn’t really have time to think about it as the Parallax being (who was reinserted into the main battery) grabs Hal, Guy (my second favorite GL) and John Stewart to Qward where Hal rumbles with the Parallax-possessed Kyle.

There’s also a quick aside in the GLC book where Sinestro visits his homeworld of Korugar, the planet that he ruled with an iron fist when he was a GL (which is exactly what he got banished for) to meet Soranik Natu, the current GL from Korugar. Though it seems like kind of a throwaway issue, it’s not because we get more insight into Sinestro’s motives. He’s actually challenging the GLs with his Corps in order to make the GLs more effective. The big storypoint in this issue is that GL partners-but-not-really Stel (a robot) and Green Man realize that the Sinestro Corps is leading an attack against Mogo, the living planet GL. Holy crap!

From here on out the story is split between Hal fighting Kyle, trying to free him from Parallax, the Lost Lanterns joining in and the other GLs fighting on Mogo. But we also find out why Cyborg’s involved in all this: he wants to die and the Anti Monitor claims he can make it happen. We also get a creepy page of Superboy Prime sitting on the moon just waiting and watchign Earth. More on that later. The moments where Hal’s trying to help Kyle are really great to me because I actually started reading GL when Hal went crazy and destroyed the Corps and Kyle was the one and only. There’s something really cool about the two characters that a lot of fans never thought they’d see together (and definitely not on the same side) in reversed roles: Kyle’s the bad guy and Hal’s trying to help him. I also really like the Lost Lanterns because I really liked those guys and it makes me feel better about watching Hal’s exploits when I know that he didn’t really kill the only other GLs I knew about.

Of course, the Lost Lanterns don’t really see it that way as most of them still hold a grudge against Hal who they’re now forced to work with as they run for their lives on Qward as their batteries run out of juice and they try to find Guy and John.

Now we move on to the crazy fight on Mogo as the GLs defend him against an evil living city with a mad on for Guy (even though he’s nowhere near Mogo) full of 100 Yellow Lanterns which starts off with just Stel and Green Man standing between Mogo and the Sinestro Corps. Of course, Kilowog and company join up with them and put up a heck of a fight. The living city is actually pretty hilarious as it continues to whine about Guy Gardner, demanding his presence and death. There’s a whole lot of craziness going on, most of which I don’t want to get into, but the Sinestro Corps is basically trying to kill Mogo because he figures out where the rings go to after a Lantern dies. He’s also the soul of the GLC and, of course, the biggest member.

Another subplot I forgot to mention is that the Guardians tasked Arisia with keeping Sodom Yat safe. They’re not sure why he’s important, but anyone who read Alan Moore’s story knows that Sodom will be the savior of the GLC. Awesome! There’s also a big fight between Kilowog and his opposite member in the SC Arkillo, a weird toothy monster. They duke it out pretty bad, but they don’t finish until later.

The last issue of the first hardcover ends with Guy and John free, Hal sucking energy out of yellow lanterns, Ganthet and Sayd getting banished from the Guardians, the Anti-Monitor killing Lost Lantern Ke’Haan (Jack Chance got killed in an earlier issue) and the kicker of the Guardians telling the GLC about the first of the new ten laws: they can kill memebrs of the Sinestro Corps. There’s a lot I like about this issue. Of course, John and Guy getting back in the game is awesome. Also, Hal conquering the yellow lanterns is rad because it proves that he’s over the fear that poisoned him. The deaths of these characters also really got me. I’m not sure if it’s because of the older GL stories I’ve read or because Geoff had made them such interesting characters or if I just freaking love Green Lanterns so much that the death of any recognizable one gets me. I’m a softy that way. Finally, the first new rule makes a lot of sense. I mean, the Green Lanterns are cops, they should be able to ice the bad guys when necessary. Of course, there’s more to it than that as we’ll find out later on.

GREEN LANTERN: THE SINESTRO CORPS WAR VOL. TWO

So this book starts with the Green Lanterns saving Mogo in a cool way that, again, would take a while to explain and seeing as how this is already a pretty long post, I’ll skip it, but add that it was really cool (living planets who are GLs are always cool). From there we find out that the Yellow Lanterns actual target is Earth, the base of them multiverse. I’ve probably used the word “craziness” more than I should, but this is when the sh!t really hits the fan (it’s all kinds of craziness).

Oh man, I haven’t mentioned the other artists. Ivan Reis and Patrick Gleason do amazing jobs with the big splash pages and smaller moments. My facorite Reis spread in the whole series is the one in GL #24 as Superboy Prime leads Sinestro, Cyborg and a legion of Yellow Lanterns over the moon with a huge yellow Warworld behind them. I get chills. You could do a whole poster book out of Sinestro Corps War and I would cover my walls with it.

Okay, so the war has hit Earth in full force which means the superheroes we (at least I) all know and love get involved in the war. But before he can get into it, Hal’s got to save his brother’s family from Kyle-Parallax who actually switches to a crazy yellow version of his costume (this story has great costumes). But you just can’t keep my favorite lantern dawn as he finally fights his way out of Parallax’s grasp and shirks the fear-thing.

Then, BAM, Ganthet and Sayd are there and trap Parallax in Kyle, Hal, John and Guy’s lanterns. There’s a great moment where all four Earth Lanterns light themselves up and they’re ready to rumble. The GLs who were fighting on Mogo finally get to Earth as lead by Kilowog Salaak who has a great bit of business where he tells everyone to fix the damage done to their uniforms. “Use the time to regenerate your uniforms. We’re CORPS. Be PROUD.” After reading that I pumped my fist and shout “[EXPLETIVE] YEAH!”

And it wasn’t the last time as Arkill and Kilowog face off AGAIN, this time it’s even more brutal. Oh, this is a great time to mention this, even though the GLs can now kill the YLs, it doesn’t mean that they all do. Some go crazy Rambo-style, which is all well and good, but others, like Kilowog, choose not to, using their rings in other ways to incapacitate their enemies.

Oh, remember that Sodom Yat guy I mentioned? Well, he became the new Ion, which is a Lantern that doesn’t need to wear a ring. He’s also extra powerful. Plus he’s from the planet Daxam which means he’s got Superman-level abilities. Well, he’s the dude that throws down with Prime. We get some history about Yat while Superboy pummels him, but our hero doesn’t give up, he keeps fighting until Prime almost kills him.

Which brings us to the last issue. Damn, it’s another beauty. In the middle of this huge war, we get a look at the other colors of the emotional spectrum and what they represent, drawn by Ethan while Ivan handles the rest of the art chores.

As far as conclusions go, this is one of the best as it keeps the insanity going to the very end as the insanity ramps up continuously. You’ve got the Anti Monitor and Prime wreaking havoc on Earth’s heroes and the GLs, Guy getting sick with Despotellis the living virus whose killed entire planets, the Guardians jumping in and fighting the Anti-Monitor, dozens and dozens of Yellow and Green Lantern deaths, Hal and Kyle throwing down with Sinestro, using Warworld to destroy Cyborg and Anti-Monitor, Anti-Monitor coming back only to get supposedly killed by Prime (he’s still pissed about AM killing his home world, go figure), one Guardian giving his life to destroy Prime and finally Hal and Kyle defeating Sinestro in a fair, no-ring fist fight. Whew, it’s crazy awesome and I’m tired just explaining it all.

But even THAT’S not the end as we got some more Van Sciver-drawn bits. We see Superboy waking up somewhere saying “Oh my gosh. It’s really back.” Sinestro in GL jail, proud of the changes he caused in the Corps. His goal was to get the GLs to actually instill fear and thus be all the more effective against the evils of the universe. THEN, we see Ganthet and Sayd become the Guardians or something for the Blue Lanterns which represent hope and they create the first blue ring. After that those damn Manhunters find Cyborg’s dead body and reboot it, resulting in a heartbreaking tear trickling down his face. And FINALLY, we see the Anti Monitor’s corpse landing somewhere and getting trapped inside the black lantern.

Jeez, I forgot there’s a-whole-nother GLC issue that acts as a prologue. This is mostly a clean up issue that stars the featured players of the GLC book, which you should definitely check out. I’m especially partial to the scene where Rannian GL Vath takes a shot for each of his fallen comrades which number more than 432. It’s a touching moment that shows how one warrior deals with the loss of so many of his friends and fellow soldiers.

As if that weren’t all there’s also an interview with the creators in the back accompanied by sketches from the artists. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m always in support of beefing up trades with extra stuff you couldn’t get in the single issues. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Oh jeez, I completely forgot a few things. First of all, Natu used a sentient smallpox GL to defeat the evil virus Sinestro Corpsman inside of Guy. I was actually pretty nervous during this whole scene because it wouldn’t have surprised me if Geoff killed off one of the big GLs (I’m really glad he didn’t).

Now, like I said in the very beginning I love this story. Some people say that Geoff doesn’t end stories well and I can’t agree with that, especially when it comes to TSCW. The War definitely ends, for now at least, while still leaving the threat out there. It’s like in Star Wars, just because Vader and Palpatine are dead, doesn’t mean the Empire just crumbles. You also get to see Sinestro in prison again, which seems to be exactly where he wants to be. There’s all kinds of other lead-ins to future stories as well. I know that Geoff has said the he considers Rebirth the first chapter of his GL epic, this is the middle and then there will be Blackest Night when that hits next year (I think). But that doesn’t mean the regular series post-TSCW is boring. Geoff and Co. have gone into further development of the characters as well as the emotional spectrum and the new lanterns. Personally, I can’t wait to see where the rest of the story goes and what happens with the Blackest Night.

Finally, I know there’s also a Tales of the Sinestro Corps book, which I also read, but that with be another review because I’m tired.

Whew.